A "Better Heterosexual"
A reader writes about the movies:
All this talk of "Brokeback Mountain" and its cultural significance finally got me thinking again of my all-time favorite film, "Midnight Cowboy", and how much of a forerunner it is for "Brokeback". Besides the cowboy tie-in, there's the struggle of two men to bridge the gap between them against the demands of their own repression. After having endured adolescence in Omaha (unfriendly environs unless you're a straight, white, Catholic male), I saw Midnight Cowboy at age 18, and it, along with my burgeoning love of David Bowie, got me shaking with nervousness that I was gay.
When I finally bothered to realize that I wasn't attracted to men, it occurred to me that I was still carrying around received notions of how masculinity and heterosexuality were defined even though I knew how much damage those ideas had inflicted on me and the other non-macho boys in school and around town. What Midnight Cowboy and Ziggy Stardust did for me was to unmoor me from that awful, cowardly, emotionally stunted caricature of heterosexuality that I carried around because there were no indigenous alternatives in Nebraska. I love these works of art for beaming in those alternatives to people starving for them, but I think that point sells them short. I love them more because they taught me to be a better heterosexual, a better man, and a better person. The plight of gay characters in Midnight Cowboy or Brokeback Mountain or whatever else affects us not with the emotional blackmail of overwrought tragedy, as detractors surely assume, but by reaching for deeper commonalities that transcend categorization. That is why it succeeds, and why other "gay art" remains, for better or worse, just that.
Amen about "gay art." If that's what it calls itself, it's neither. Speaking of movies, we watched "East of Eden" last night. I'd never seen it, but its deep themes of love versus truth, of sin and salvation, seemed more relevant than ever. What Steinbeck and Kazan seemed to be saying is that truth matters, but the ultimate Christian truth is love. When adherence to truth attacks love, it destroys itself. If I were forced to state the essentials of my own Christian faith, it would be something like that. Love before everything. And the more astonishing idea: that the force behind all of us, and all of creation, is ... benign. That's what Jesus came to prove. And what some of his followers occasionally forget.